Sen. Jeff Sessions, leading Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, says public anger at the White House is making his fight against President Obama’s yet-to-be-named Supreme Court justice easier.
Comparing the current vacancy created by Justice John Stevens’s retirement to Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, Sessions said “the American people are more concerned today about an out of control federal government than they were last time.”
Sessions criticized Obama’s judicial philosophy, which press secretary Robert Gibbs recently said was “results-oriented.” Process – not results – “is what judging is all about,” Sessions said, adding that Americans are increasingly alarmed at Obama’s focus on “results” at any cost.
Obama has been criticized, for instance, for relying on sweetheart deals for senators to pass his health-care legislation.
While declining to handicap potential nominees, saying he “respects the power of the president to nominate,” Sessions outlined how he would approach a nominee without a significant paper trail, such as U.S. Solicitor General and former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan:
“If a person has no judicial record or real in depth legal record, then the only thing you have is their writings and their speeches and public comments. So those do take on added importance. If those writings and speeches and comments evidence a lack of commitment to the Constitution, to the actual role of a judge in our system, then I think they’ve got a big problem. Just to walk in and say, ‘I really wish I hadn’t said that,’ or ‘whatever I said I will follow the Supreme Court’s opinions,’ well, they’re on the Supreme Court now,” Sessions said.
The issue is important because Kagan, one of three potential nominees who have received the most attention while Obama is deciding who to pick, has a record so thin it’s almost suspicious, critics say.
Sessions promised Republicans would be fair to the nominee, which he contrasted with Democrats’ treatment of President Bush’s nominees. Conflict over judicial nominees nearly blew up the Senate during the Bush administration when then-Majority Leader Bill Frist threatened the so-called “nuclear option” that would have prohibited filibusters for nominations.
But, while, fair, Republicans won’t be afraid to reject a nominee they find unqualified for the high court, Sessions said.